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Scott on Paterno: 'He brought great perspective to my life'

---The following statement was sent by Buffalo Bills and former Penn State safety Bryan Scott regarding the passing of Paterno:

It's really difficult to find words that encompass what Coach Paterno will forever mean to me. He reinforced that a man's character, morals, values and fundamentals were the main ingredient for success. Succeeding in the classroom, succeeding at your job, succeeding at home, should all be placed before success on the football field. The fact that the all-time winningest collegiate coach placed a much higher precedence on guiding his players to a successful life, is indicative of his authentic values and iconic character. He brought great perspective to my life, and I will always and forever take those lessons, live by them, and pass them forward.

---Bryan Scott, Class of 2003

O'Brien's statement on the passing of Joe Paterno

---New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien released the following statement prior to today's AFC Championship Game:

"It is with great sadness that I am compelled to deliver this message of condolence and tribute to a great man, husband, father and someone who is more than just a coach, Joe Paterno. First, on behalf of Penn State Football, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Paterno family for their loss. We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni. Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies. The Penn State Football program is one of college football's iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno's immeasurable contributions."

---Rodney McKissic


Live blog from the AFC Championship Game at 3 p.m.

AFC Championship Game preview chat with Rodney McKissic

Report: Brady's missed practice part of plan

FOXBOROUGH, Mass - Tom Brady missed Wednesday's practice as part of a schedule he currently is on in order to make sure his injured left shoulder continues to heal properly.

New England's All-Pro quarterback sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder against Miami on Dec. 24, according to sources with knowledge of the injury, but he hasn't missed any game time as a result of the injury. He was held out of practice that week and during the bye week, but one source said his condition gradually has improved.

---Rodney McKissic


Finding the proper balance

FOXBOROUGH, Mass - Bill Walsh would get away from football by 9 p.m. the night before a game while Jimmy Johnson obsessed over details right up until kickoff. Bill Belichick’s pre-game ritual falls somewhere in between.

“It depends on the situation,’’ he said. “There are games where on Saturday night you stay up and want to go through something one more time. Then there’s other times when you watch a college game on TV or you just go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep and start in the morning. It’s just how you feel at that point and time.’’

In the end, it comes down to his comfort level of certain aspects in the game plan.

“Sometimes you go through the Saturday night meeting with the players and something comes up and if you’re not sure then they’re probably not sure and you need to go back and do it one more time,’’ Belichick said. “I’m not going to be able to get to sleep until [I say], ‘I have to get this straight in my head before I can get it to them.’ A lot of times you come out of that meeting feeling, ‘We’ve got it, we’ve just got to go play,’ Each week is different.’’

---Rodney McKissic


Ravens need to get Rice cooking

FOXBOROUGH, Mass - The Ravens have to do a better job of establishing Ray Rice as an offensive presence than they did last week against Houston.

Baltimore’s leading rusher and receiver, Rice ran 21 times for 60 yards – an average of 2.9 yards a carry – with a long of just nine yards against and four receptions for 60 yards. To keep New England’s potent offense off the field, Rice has to be more of a factor in the run game.

“That’s who we are, that’s what we do,’’ Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “Our offense is still evolving to some degree, but it’s built for this division. We’ve tried to build this offense to win a division championship first, and then a conference championship second, and then on from there. A big part of that in this division is being able to run the football.’’

The running game is an underrated element of the Ravens, who ranked 10th in the NFL with 1,996 yards and an average of 4.3 yards a carry. Rice rushed for a career high 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Rice has enjoyed success before against New England in the postseason when he ran for 159 yards and scored twice in a 33-14 Ravens win. Rice set the tone with an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

“He obviously has the speed to go outside and the speed to go the distance,’’ New England coach Bill Belichick said. “He reads blocks well, he’s got good vision, excellent receiver and they use him on screens and check downs and things like that. …He’s a good all-around player.’’

---Rodney McKissic


Inside the NFL chat with Mark Gaughan

Record number of underclassmen enter draft

---The NFL announced a record 65 underclassmen have applied for early entry into the 2012 NFL Draft, up nine from last season. Below is the list of players which includes Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick:

Stephon Gilmore, DB, South Carolina
Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest
Dorian Graham, WR, Syracuse
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Jewel Hampton, RB, Southern Illinois
Cliff Harris, DB, Oregon
Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
Max Holloway, DE, Boston College
Jayron Hosley, DB, Virginia Tech
Janzen Jackson, DB, McNeese State
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
Damaris Johnson, WR, Tulsa
Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Matt Kalil, T, Southern California
Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, Alabama
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Terrell Manning, LB, North Carolina State
Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
Bobby Massie, T, Mississippi
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
Eric Page, WR, Toledo
Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina
Nick Perry, DE, Southern California
Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
Ken Plue, G, Purdue
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Rueben Randle, WR, Louisiana State
Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Josh Robinson, DB, Central Florida
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Darrell Scott, RB, South Florida
Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
Johnny Thomas, DB, Oklahoma State
Phillip Thomas, DB, Syracuse
Barrett Trotter, QB, Auburn
Vernon Vernon, DE, Miami
 Brandon Washington, T, Miami
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

---Rodney McKissic


Super Bowl is that matters for Flacco

---The Ravens have finished with back-to-back 12-4 seasons as well as an AFC North championship but quarterback Joe Flacco said in order for the team to be considered special, they have to win the Super Bowl.

“You can’t get to the playoffs and lose every year and expect to be considered a special team,’’ he said. “We are definitely a good football team. That is without question. To be a special team, you have to win championships. We are working towards that. That is why we are here right now. That is why we put ourselves in this position every year. If you are here every year, you give yourself a way higher percentage of getting to the Super Bowl and winning it.’’

However Flacco, now in his fourth season, said there isn’t a sense of desperation to win immediately but contending annually for championships is expected.

“I don’t think you ever want to feel that way,’’ he said. “The bottom line is that getting to the playoffs and getting to this position is a rare thing. We have been spoiled around here, but that is because we are a good football team. You say teams are not in this position a lot or young guys don’t get used to this – you always hear that. Well, shoot, we should get used to it. We are a good … football team. Why shouldn’t we be here every year?’’

---Rodney McKissic


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